New Proposal to Protect Alaskan Wilderness Most Sweeping in Decades

Jan 26, 2015

PHOTOGRAPH BY PAUL NICKLEN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

By Craig Welch

No president in 35 years has made as sweeping a conservation proposal as President Barack Obama did today by urging Congress to transform the oil-laden coastal plain of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge into what would be the largest wilderness area in the nation’s history.

The president’s move to designate 12.3 million acres of new wilderness would block decades of efforts to drill for oil on a 1.5-million-acre portion of the refuge. That coastal region is thought to contain up to 10.3 billion barrels of petroleum—roughly as much as the nation’s largest oil field, nearby Prudhoe Bay, has produced since 1968.

It would also protect a stunning, diverse ecosystem that includes 36 types of fish, calving grounds and a migration corridor for a troubled caribou herd, and nesting grounds for bird species that travel to the Arctic from all 50 states. It is the only refuge in the United States that is home to grizzly bears, black bears, and denning sites for polar bears, and it provides a wildlife corridor that stretches from the Canadian border across Alaska to the Chukchi Sea.

The refuge—often referred to simply by its acronym, ANWR—has long been a powerful symbol, a litmus test, about how Americans view the nation’s vast expanse of untracked wild country.

That’s been particularly true since 1980, when President Jimmy Carter was burned in effigy in Fairbanks, Alaska, in part for doubling protections along this vast expanse of tundra and birch and spruce forest that stretches from the Brooks Range north to the Beaufort Sea.

Is sacrificing a small slice of this obscure, rarely visited landscape a small price to pay to meet our energy needs? Or is this a one-of-a-kind environment that should be protected at all costs, a place to start to make a transformation to a cleaner energy future?


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4 comments on “New Proposal to Protect Alaskan Wilderness Most Sweeping in Decades

  • Global warming effects Alaska and the Yukon most strongly. High temperatures mean more mosquitoes. More mosquitoes mean caribou have to leave grazing lands for the windy heights to get away from them. They became malnourished and cannot make it through the winter. Numbers are plummeting. More territory will not fix this problem.



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  • @OP – Is sacrificing a small slice of this obscure, rarely visited landscape a small price to pay to meet our energy needs? Or is this a one-of-a-kind environment that should be protected at all costs, a place to start to make a transformation to a cleaner energy future?

    False dichotomy and wrong question!!

    .Most fossil fuels ‘unburnable’ under 2°C climate target.

    Over 80% of coal, 50% of gas and 30% of oil reserves are “unburnable” under the goal to limit global warming to no more than 2C, say scientists.

    University College London research, published in Nature journal, rules out drilling in the Arctic.

    Is sacrificing the planet and large parts of its human population to carbonaceous greed and stupidity, an intelligent option?? –
    The answer should be obvious!



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  • Well, that’s some good news if Obama can pull it off. Republican greed guzzlers are, of course, outraged at the loss of potential profits, Alaskan Repubs especially; they’re claiming that it’ll cost the state jobs and revenue and increase our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. All selfish bullshit, of course. The best way to increase jobs and revenue and get off the Middle Eastern oil tit is to develop wind and solar infrastructure, put money into green technologies and R&D, and increase funding for STEM fields in universities. But Repubs wouldn’t want that, because it’s all about profits now, now, NOW! and fuck the future. They’ll be denying anthropogenic climate change from their walled compounds as millions die – and they won’t give a shit.

    The very last thing they give a shit about is scenic beauty and the health of endangered species. Too bad Repubs aren’t an endangered species.



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  • However – the fingers-in-ears-denialsts still don’t get the message!

    Royal Dutch Shell is reviving plans to drill for oil in Arctic in a move likely to intensify its battle with environmentalists.

    The Anglo-Dutch giant’s chief executive Ben van Beurden accepted that Arctic drilling “divides society”, but said the world needs new sources of oil.

    Greenpeace said Shell was taking a “massive risk” in a “pristine” region.

    Shell also announced a $15bn (£9.9bn) cut in global spending, and profit figures that disappointed investors.

    Shell also said profits for the last three months of 2014 had risen to $4.2bn compared with $2.2bn in the same period a year earlier.

    The numbers were below analysts’ forecasts, prompting a big sell-off of Shell’s shares, down almost 5% in early afternoon trading.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-31034870



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